Friday, August 28, 2015

What the Land of Extremes taught me

I feel like a trip doesn't realize its full potential if I don't come back with some lessons learned, so here's what my experience in Iceland taught me:

    The Value of Simplicity.  After a little homework and a quick grocery store run, we learned the cheap eating staples for Icelandic people involved mainly Skyr, a Greek yogurt type, and Meusli, a oatmeal/steel cut oats breakfast meal. Very healthy, very filling, and honestly not extraordinarily tasty. But when I ate that stuff, I could hike for hours. With virtually other luxurious spices and flavors needing importing, I found it easy to feel grateful to access a good, simple fuel source that only took a few bites to sustain life indefinitely.

    America makes these complex foods and diets for top sports performance, for rapid weight loss, for energy, etc. And it drives me nuts! I loved that Iceland was so modest and straightforward with health - how I think health should be.

    Its clothing and transportation also very straightforward and modest in Iceland - it did its job and that was good enough.

    Another way I learned simplicity came from just escaping into the mountains with no internet connection (or showers, cough) for days and thinking about all the unnecessary concerns I create in my own life. Stepping away from it all, and clearing my head made it easy to decide what day-to-day thoughts, worries, and frustrations back home just don't matter.

    So I came home and unsubscribed from many emails and websites, cleared my inboxes, wore t-shirts and jeans with no makeup more often, stopped going to everything I felt pressured to attend before, and focused on the basic "sharpening the saw" things in my life.

    I feel so grateful for simplification because it gives me time to focus and appreciate the little things more. Which leads to my next lesson learned.

    What and who really matters. 

    (Spoiler Alert, skip this paragraph if you haven't seen Walter Mitty!) A significant moment occurs in Walter Mitty after he travels through the Afghan mountains looking for the "quintessence of life" - he realizes what he looked for was back home in his pocket the whole time. I could analyze this story's outcome two different ways: either one lesson says we don't really need to travel because we have what we need where we stand or another lesson that traveling teaches us a new perspective that helps us to recognize the perfection in where we call home and the love connected to it.

    What I want to say from this analysis is that if you don't find an opportunity to travel then it's not a big deal as long as you can recognize the quintessence of your home, loved ones and work where you stand. But, unfortunately, for Walter and I, we need those new experiences to cherish the familiar ones more deeply.

    As I stood overlooking grand oceans, deep volcanic craters, golden waterfalls, and astonishing fields of black rocks, my mind would wander and eventually trace back to those who I love and cared for. Those who mattered in my life. Those who I wished to express more gratitude and love for than prior to leaving. Those who I wish could share those moments with.

    I also found who didn't matter barely crossed my mind too, whereas at home they constantly distracted my heart and mind from who should really have more of my time and attention. The people and meaningful work I share in my life are essentially my quintessence. 

    How to pronounce things in Icelandic. Well, sort of...

    Or in other words, gaining a new paradigm. So the slaughtering of Icelandic and immersing in a different culture always becomes a reminder that not everybody thinks the same way, but each way different countries approach life can be incredibly beautiful. I think I mostly struggled to wrap my head around how people could cope living somewhere so insanely cold nine months of the year. The Of Monsters and Men concert really helped me understand their perspective more deeply. Lead singer Nanna explained (in English!) how her song "Winter Sound" described her experience living in Iceland in the dead of winter.

    This story she shared in song became a reminder that every place you live in comes with perks and with cons, and my trip definitely taught me the pros and cons from this place. Also, that there's a silver lining in the cons: I had the fortune to catch the Northern Lights the last night, and realized that God blesses these people with some incredibly beautiful things amidst their blistery, painful conditions. I didn't see any actual glaciers, but the pictures on Google justified themselves and showed how gorgeous winter can be.

    Which leads to my final main lesson learned.

    God created a beautiful, marvelous world for us because he loves us. My great travel buddy Bonnie helped me recognize this as she frequently stopped to go soak in the scenery around us on her own.

    Frankly put, life is hard, and there's a lot of crap going on in this world. I really struggle lately as I see so many stories about shootings in my country, terrible bombings in other countries, economies falling apart and bad things happening to people trying to live through their already difficult problems. So many opinions on what's best, what's wrong in the world, what to do, who to be, what to look like, how to really succeed. Sometimes I find myself really disgusted to live in this world, but God shows his grace in the beautiful things around us, and in the not-always-noticed or unseen good things of the world. From the small wildflowers to the grand rolling waters, to magical glowing spring water and a place where lava and ice exist together, it's hard for me to deny a divine designer for it all.

    So there you go, that's Iceland. Thank you world for always teaching me remarkable things and giving me incredible experiences. I feel very grateful for the opportunity to go abroad - for a job that provides the time and money for this, for the friends willing to take crazy journeys with me, and for modern transportation that makes it feasible to see the most northern corners of the Earth. Also, thank you for reading this. Now enjoy some pretty, epic pictures where I totally love life:


    1. Thanks for writing and sharing some of the experience of traveling through the written works to help me appreciate both Iceland and home more.

    2. Thanks for reading. Glad you enjoyed it. :) I like writing these things so they remind me what's important later as well.

    3. Awesome! Great post and insights. You've inspired me to simplify my life. :-)